HOUSTON – Wal-Mart’s battle to overturn Texas laws that prohibit the multi-billion dollar company from selling liquor is moving forward – trial has been set for Sept. 2016, and the national mogul is not backing down in the state that houses over 500 stores, more than any state in the country.
“We are strong believer in free markets, competition, consumer choice and offering our customers low prices on the products they want and need," said Anne Hatfield, Walmart Spokesperson. "Customers are telling us they want added convenience and choice when shopping for adult beverages."
On Sept. 8, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman signed the scheduling order, after denying the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s (TABC) motion to dismiss Walmart’s claim that the liquor ban violates the Constitution.
In the lawsuit, Walmart repeatedly calls the liquor laws that it seeks to overturn “irrational.” Currently, the laws set forth by the TABC prohibit publicly held companies from selling liquor, with an exemption for publicly owned hotels. Private companies can only hold five liquor permits; however, a loophole exists that allows family members to open independent stores and then transfer them to a single private entity.
Walmart claims that these laws discriminate against certain publicly traded companies, and are “irrational” because they allow for publicly traded hotels to sell liquor but prohibit others, and give private companies a loophole. Walmart says that the liquor laws violate the Equal Protection Clause, Commerce Clause, and Comity Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“If the courts agree the current law is unconstitutional, Walmart will then be allowed to compete on an even playing field as the package stores in Texas,” said Hatfield.
The TABC argues that it has the authority to restrict the sale of alcohol in order to promote temperance, and that its existing liquor laws encourage local family businesses. Walmart’s opponents fear that allowing the public company to sell liquor will harm “mom and pop” shops, and extend the corporation’s monopoly.
However, Hatfield said that it is time to “modernize the laws in response to customer demand.”
“We can offer our customers an assortment of beer, wine, and spirits as part of a convenient and comfortable one-stop shopping experience. More importantly, we can provide those products in a responsible manner,” said Hatfield
If the liquor law is overturned, Walmart plans to build stand-alone liquor stores separate from but adjacent to entrances for the sale of spirits, and is allowed to sell liquor in 25 other states.